The receptor erbB2/neu is a member of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR or erbB) family that also includes erbB3 and erbB4. Amplification of the erbB2/neu gene is found in many cancer types and its overexpression is correlated with a poor prognosis for breast and ovarian cancer patients. Investigation of the biology of erbB2 led to the identification of a family of ligands termed neuregulins which included the neu-differentiation factors, the heregulins, a ligand with acetylcholine-receptor-inducing activity and glial growth factor. Several lines of evidence suggest that heterodimerization of erbB2 with other erbB receptors is required for neuregulin signalling. Here we investigate the developmental role of erbB2 in mammalian development in mice carrying an erbB2 null allele. We find that mutant embryos die before E11, probably as a result of dysfunctions associated with a lack of cardiac trabeculae. Development of cranial neural-crest-derived sensory ganglia was markedly affected. DiI retrograde tracing revealed that the development of motor nerves was also compromised. Our results demonstrate the importance of erbB2 in neural and cardiac development.